Novel wastewater treatment plant employs NUI Galway expertise and IP
Employing patented technology from NUI Galway (NUIG), supported by a collaborative research project with the university to validate and scale it, a Tullamore company is opening up new market opportunities. Molloy Environmental Systems commissioned its first full scale Pumped Flow Biofilm Reactor (PFBR) plant in Moneygall, Co. Offaly, in 2013 designed to treat wastewater from a community of up to 750 people.
Molloy has since won a number of contracts using the PFBR for village size communities and in industrial applications, including treatment of animal wastewater at Athenry Mart Co-Op and at a fish processing plant at Carlingford. With an eye to opportunities in Europe, it has also developed a modular PFBR-based treatment plant that fits within a shipping container. The first application of this is on a site prone to flooding at Shannonbridge in Co. Offaly.
Founded in 1979 and based in Co. Offaly, Molloy designs, manufactures and maintains specialist wastewater treatment and rainwater harvesting systems, as well as more general precast concrete products.
Innovation partnership approach
NUIG wastewater specialists Michael Rodgers, Edmond O'Reilly and Eoghan Clifford knew Molloy from a number of previous research projects and the company had provided practical support for some of their research activities.
"That helped to keep us in the loop," says Managing Director Donal Molloy. "So when the opportunity arose to pitch for the commercial rights of this new technology we were hungry for it and able to move quickly. What the inventors really needed was a live demonstration project and we were able to set that in train though our contacts with Offaly County Council." The project was enabled through funding from the Enterprise Ireland Innovation Partnership Programme.
It takes time to realise the impact of research
The technology developed at NUIG reaches back over 10 years when the team led by Dr. Rodgers set out to address performance and cost issues in wastewater treatment plants. One of the solutions they invented was an approach that replaces mechanical aeration of wastewater with passive aeration technology – PFBR.
As Dr. Clifford, who now heads the EPA Water Research Facility at NUIG, explains, the PFBR ticks many boxes, particularly in the handling of wastewater for populations of up to 5,000 people and in industrial applications. "It is capable of achieving high standards of wastewater treatment, is energy efficient and has low sludge production. It's also extremely robust and flexible and requires minimal maintenance,” he says. The savings in running costs are dramatic, with very low electricity usage when compared to similarly sized wastewater treatment plants.
The TTO also negotiated the licence agreement on behalf of the inventors and supported the Innovation Partnership Agreement. "Having the TTO handle the negotiations on royalty rates kept us at one remove and helped us maintain our already established good relationships with Molloys" says Clifford.
Publish date: 2014